Capstone Activity: Organize an Event

We think you’re ready to organize an event -- maybe consider it your “graduation” from this course! You know solid science about climate change and health, you’ve identified and studied an issue that you particularly want to remedy, you know and have practiced a few ways to successfully communicate about this, and have identified others willing to do so, too.

The next step is to try organizing some sort of live event – we’d suggest figuring out how to call further public attention to corporations, organizations, and individuals who are making climate change even worse, and to publicly ask those wrong-doers to change their practices. You may want to find a few other people to come to your event, to further build a community of action around your petition – it could be good to start with the people who signed your petition.

Once you’ve practiced doing this, you’ll have a good toolkit for reducing the amount of climate change the world will see.

And finally then, to your last assignment for this course: write here about your event / campaign, as long or as short as you would like. Write when you’re done with an activity, and write about it ongoingly, if you continue with it. You can freely continue blogging in this document at NextGenU about your advocacy, and we’re happy to continue publishing about it – this can be another good way to organize your community and get your word out, but remember the climate perpetrators can get access to your words, too! (Now they’ll know I am willing to publicly call them climate perpetrators!)

To get you started on thinking about public events, here are some ways I (Erica Frank, Course Creator for this course and Founder and President of NextGenU.org) have created public climate change events in the past.

  • Identify a company whose practices could particularly use improving, and where climate change would be meaningfully reduced if they did so, and find a place to legally host a press conference where you can talk about your recommendations for that company. Here’s some good information on what to do at a press conference (but you might wish to research how to hold a press conference in your country):
  • A hint: one especially good place to host press conferences is in a park, or in front of a company’s billboard, or in other public location that is convenient for the press to reach, and from which you can see the corporate headquarters, product, plant, or logo over your shoulders as you speak. Also, if you are a physician or some other type of health provider, strongly consider wearing something that readily identifies you as such -- a doctor’s white coat, with or without a stethescope around my neck, has always worked well for me in this situation.
  • Buy one share of stock in a company that needs improving, and go to the shareholder meeting to introduce a shareholder resolution. I have done this, again wearing my doctor’s white coat, with nuns wearing their habits (another powerful use of symbols for moral suasion) at a Georgia Power shareholder meeting. We asked Georgia Power’s Board why they insisted on causing the unnecessary deaths of over 1,000 Georgians every year, because they refused to use standard exhaust scrubbers on their coal-burning power plants, and instead prided themselves on very low power costs, and high profits. I felt such satisfaction in publicly stating, in front of the men making these decisions and their shareholders, that these gains were ill-gotten, attained by externalizing their costs on the dirtier lungs and the mercury-laden brains of every Georgian, and our doing so meaningfully advanced the climate change and health agenda.
  • Speak out at your medical society. I spent over two decades in American medical politics at the Specialty, State, and National level, typically as the only “out” liberal, feminist, or atheist in the room. I introduced and got passed many public health advocacy resolutions in the American College of Preventive Medicine, the Medical Association of Georgia, and the American Medical Association, including one creating an American Medical Association policy paper on climate change.
  • Find a company whose practices you think you can improve, and tell them so. Tell them that they could hire you to help, or you could give them some good ideas to start with. I did this through collectively creating and being part of the DuPont Health Advisory Board for a decade, and we especially worked with their sustainability initiatives. My most notable success with this work “from the inside” was getting DuPont’s President to withdraw their bid for nuclear waste management at the Savannah River Site, and to likely never be involved again in the dirty nuclear industry.
  • Run for public office. I was elected and (as of Fall 2013) will have served for three terms in our municipality here at the University of British Columbia, UTown@UBC. Unsurprisingly, I have had special responsibility in Sustainability and in Public Health. I have reduced climate change in this role by creating a Sustainability Memo of Understanding that has produced the “social license” for UBC’s Biofuels Research and Demonstration Facility, plans for 20 storey apartment towers that could transform the urban environmental and emotional sustainability landscape, and interventions to reduce air travel, the overwhelmingly largest carbon footprint of UBC’s simultaneously jet-setting and “green” cohort.
  • Take further training. I served for two years as a part-time Sustainability Fellow at UBC, learning how to teach about climate change – this course is a product of that Fellowship J Join and help lead an organization. Physicians for Social Responsibility and International Society of Doctors for the Environment have excellent climate change materials.
  • Start an organization. My son and I cofounded CRED because of our concerns about the proposed Kinder-Morgan pipeline across B.C. Create a website. Again, because of their proposed pipeline, I created http:// www.kindermorgansurprise.org/ -- it’s been called a “cheeky” website about carbon pollution.
  • Figure out another compelling way for you to improve the world and reduce your and others’ carbon footprints. I’m particularly fond of picking up trash, and up- purposing it. That’s the foundation of NextGenU, really – taking learning objects that people have left laying around on the internet for anyone to pick up, organize them around expert competencies that are waiting for just such a purpose, add a few learning activities like this one, and turn them into an accredited course for you. And it’s not just a metaphor for me -- I also constantly pickup trash on the streets and sidewalks, as it is esthetically and morally offensive to me, and throw it in a landfill bin, recycle it, or use it for art, sometimes in my free Gallery of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia (by the way -- please come visit our Climate Change and Health exhibit if you’re in Vancouver! ).

See – there are lots of ways to up-purpose yourself and the people and the objects around you. So please figure out your own way, and then tell us about it, per the instructions above.